The latest on the Russia–Ukraine crisis, April 15. Click here for updates from April 14.
Between 2,500 to 3,000 Ukrainian Troops Have Died in War: Zelenskyy
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Friday told CNN that between 2,500 to 3,000 Ukrainian troops have died so far in the war with Russia and another 10,000 have been injured.
Ukraine Says Fighting Rages in Mariupol, Blasts Rattle Kyiv
Ukraine said on Friday it was trying to break Russia’s siege of Mariupol as fighting raged around the city’s massive steel works and port, and the capital Kyiv was rocked by some of the most powerful explosions in two weeks.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the military situation in the south and east of the country was “still very difficult,” while praising the work of his armed forces.
“The successes of our military on the battlefield are really significant, historically significant. But they are still not enough to clean our land of the occupiers. We will beat them some more,” Zelenskyy said in a late-night video address, calling again for allies to send heavier weapons and for an international embargo on Russian oil.
Russia said it struck what it described as a factory on the outskirts of Kyiv that made and repaired anti-ship missiles, in apparent retaliation for the sinking on Thursday of the Moskva, the flagship of Moscow’s Black Sea fleet.
Ukraine said one of its missiles had caused the Moskva to sink, a powerful symbol of its resistance to a better-armed foe. Moscow said the ship sank while being towed in stormy seas after a fire caused by an explosion of ammunition.
Russia Says Ukraine Preparing to Attack Civilians
The Russian military announced on Friday that the Ukrainian government is preparing to attack a railway station with civilian refugees and then accuse Russia of war crimes, RT reported.
Lieutenant General Mikhail Mizintsev, head of the National Defense Management Center, said the flag-false attack being planned will be “similar to the one carried out in Kramatorsk.”
Mizintsev said that the 19th Missile Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine plans on firing a Tochka-U tactical missile at a railway station filled with refugees at Lozovaya, a city in Kharkov Oblast.
Ukraine accused Russia of the Kramatorsk railway attack that occurred on April 8. It was reported that more than 50 people died in the attack caused by a Soviet-era Tochka-U tactical missile, BBC reported.
The Russian general added that the Tochka-U missile used in the Kramatorsk station attack had a serial number associated with Ukraine’s stockpiles.
But according to Twitter user, a video shows Russia transporting Tochka-U missiles from Ukraine to Belarus in April 2022. It is not known if they are actually Tochka-U missiles.
Russian Court Says Google, Wikipedia Face Fines Over ‘Fake’ Content
A Russian court has threatened U.S. Internet giant Google and Wikipedia owner Wikimedia Foundation with fines for failing to delete what it said was “fake” information about the Ukraine conflict, Interfax news agency reported on Friday.
Russia’s communications watchdog said on Thursday that Google would face fines over its failure to delete from video sharing site YouTube content that Moscow considers illegal.
Wife of Putin Ally Held in Ukraine Accuses Kyiv Authorities of Beating Her Husband
The wife of one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top allies in Ukraine said on Friday that he has been beaten by the Ukrainian security service while being interrogated in detention.
At a news conference in Moscow, Viktor Medvedchuk’s wife Oksana Marchenko said that one of two photos released by Ukraine this week showed he had been beaten.
Reuters could not independently confirm this, and neither Ukraine’s security service, the SBU, nor the Kremlin immediately responded to requests for comment.
On Wednesday, Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said: “Those freaks who call themselves the Ukrainian authorities say that they want to beat testimony out of Viktor Medvedchuk, ‘quickly and fairly,’ convict him, and then exchange him for prisoners.”
Ukraine’s security service, the SBU, said on Tuesday it had arrested Medvedchuk, who has long advocated closer ties to Russia and is leader of the Opposition Platform—For Life party. The party is Ukraine’s largest opposition party.
One photo of him in handcuffs was released on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s official Telegram account, and another was posted by the SBU on Facebook.
Displaying the two photos, Marchenko said one had been taken before he was interrogated and showed no sign of injury. A second image, which she said had been taken during his interrogation, showed him with his hair over his forehead.
“It shows a big bruise and marks which they have tried to conceal with his hair. There is no doubt that he was beaten in the first hours after his arrest,” she said.
That photo shows what could be a mark on his forehead beneath a wisp of hair, although Reuters could not determine what caused it.
Police: More Than 900 Civilian Bodies Found in Kyiv Region
The bodies of more than 900 civilians were discovered in the Kyiv region following the withdrawal of Russian forces, the regional police chief said in a briefing Friday.
Andriy Nebytov, the head of Kyiv’s regional police force, said the bodies had been abandoned in the streets or given temporary burials. He cited police data indicating that 95 percent of the casualties had died from sniper fire and gunshot wounds.
“Consequently, we understand that under the [Russian] occupation, people were simply executed in the streets,” Nebytov said. “The number of killed civilians has surpassed 900—and I emphasize, these are civilians, whose bodies we have discovered and handed over for forensic examination.”
He added that more bodies were being found every day, under the rubble and in mass graves.
“The most victims were found in Bucha, where there are more than 350 corpses,” he said.
According to Nebytov, utilities workers in Bucha had been gathering up and burying bodies in the Kyiv suburb while it remained under Russian control. Nebytov added that Russian troops were “tracking down” people who expressed strong pro-Ukrainian views.
Russian Crowd Mourns Black Sea Flagship After Its Sinking
Dozens of people gathered in the Crimean city of Sevastopol on Friday to mourn the sinking of the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, a symbol, the crowd heard, of hope, revival, and power until its demise.
Some embraced and others laid flowers in memory of the Moskva missile cruiser at a monument to the 1696 foundation of the Russian navy in the center of Sevastopol, headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet.
Moscow said the ship sank while being towed in stormy seas after a fire caused by an ammunition explosion.
Ukraine said one of its missiles had caused it to sink.
Russia, which has not acknowledged an attack, said the incident is under investigation.
“Even for those who have not been on it, the Moskva was a symbol for everyone, a symbol of our power, of our hope, of the revival of the fleet in the 1990s” following the collapse of the Soviet Union, said Reserve Captain Sergei Gorbachev, who spoke to the crowd in his naval uniform.
“There will be victories, there will be tragedies, but the memory remains,” Gorbachev said.
The crowd, which included a number of people who served on the ship, stood in respectful silence. Some wore the ribbon of St. George, a symbol of the Russian military.
Moscow Reiterates Its Primary Goal in Ukraine
Moscow sees Ukraine’s hardcore nationalist units as a threat to peace in the country and is working to destroy them, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday.
“In places where there are no nationalist battalions to take peaceful populations hostage [or] shoot up social sites, houses, peaceful life takes hold,” the official said. “In places where the nationalist battalions do those things, there is intensive fighting. There, they are all subject to being destroyed.”
“The [military operation] continues and the objectives are well known. They have to be achieved and they will be achieved,” the official said.
Russia Wants to Expand Ruble Use for Energy Exports
Russia is planning to increase the use of the ruble in energy exports, but no deadlines have been set for the payment switch, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday.
“The president has set a methodical and step-by-step approach to expanding the use of national currencies,” Peskov told reporters in a conference call on Friday.
The statement comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in late March that Russia would only accept payment for gas exports in rubles from countries deemed “hostile” by the Kremlin due to their sanctions policies.
Sen. Daines, Rep. Spartz First US Lawmakers to Visit Ukraine Since Start of War
Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) arrived in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Thursday in a show of solidarity with the country and to witness the aftermath of the Russian invasion.
The two Republicans are the first elected U.S. officials known to have visited the country since the start of the war on Feb. 24. The duo traveled from Kyiv to Bucha, a city near the Ukrainian capital where numerous bodies have recently been found in mass graves.
“What we saw today was shocking … to see these shallow graves and to watch these investigators … extracting these bodies of women, of small children, civilians across the board, it’s mind-numbing,” Daines told reporters in Bucha.
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Russia Comments on Outcome of Sweden and Finland Joining NATO
Sweden and Finland will lose part of their sovereignty while compromising their security if they join NATO, the Russian Foreign Ministry warned on Friday, referring to the two nations’ expected requests for formal membership in the U.S.-led military bloc.
Sweden and Finland have long been close to the organization but have maintained formal nonalignment with NATO since the Cold War. Both may soon apply for membership amid the ongoing security crisis in Ukraine. The Russian ministry warned that Sweden and Finland would not gain anything by moving forward with the plan.
NATO membership “is unlikely to help build Sweden’s and Finland’s international prestige,” spokesperson Maria Zakharova said in a comment released by the Russian ministry. She said the two nations will lose the opportunity to act as “conveyors of many constructive, unifying initiatives” as they did in the past.
“Naturally the choice belongs to the authorities of Sweden and Finland. But they should realize the consequences of such a move to our bilateral relations and the European security architecture, which currently is in a state of crisis,” she added.
Pro-Russia Politician Held on Treason Charge
The wife of a Ukrainian politician held by Kyiv on a treason charge has accused Ukrainian security services of torturing her husband and fabricating his escape from house arrest in a press conference held in Moscow on Friday.
Oksana Marchenko, the wife of Viktor Medvedchuk, the former leader of a pro-Russian opposition party and a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, referred to her husband as a “political prisoner,” and claimed that she does not know where he is.
Medvedchuk was detained on Tuesday in a special operation carried out by Ukraine’s state security service, or the SBU. The 67-year-old oligarch escaped from house arrest several days before the hostilities broke out on Feb. 24 in Ukraine. He is facing between 15 years and a life in prison on charges of treason.
“I have no doubt that my husband was beaten within hours after his capture,” she said at the press conference. “I am appealing for help in establishing (his) real whereabouts. I call for help to stop the physical and mental torture.”
Ukraine: 7 Killed Near Kharkiv; Explosion Felt in East
A large explosion has struck the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, the site of a missile strike on a train station a week earlier that left more than 50 dead and dozens wounded.
Associated Press journalists in the city heard the sound of a rocket or missile and then the blast, followed by sirens wailing early Friday afternoon. It was not immediately clear what was hit or whether there were casualties.
A spokesman for the regional prosecutor’s office told Ukraine’s Suspilne news website Friday that seven people died and 27 were injured after Russian forces opened fire on buses carrying civilians in the Ukrainian village of Borovaya, near the northeastern city of Kharkiv.
The claims could not be independently verified.
Russia Pledges More Strikes on Kyiv After Missile Attack, Says it Took Mariupol Plant
Russia’s defense ministry said on Friday it had struck a military target on the edge of Kyiv overnight with cruise missiles and promised more strikes against the Ukrainian capital in response to Ukrainian attacks on Russian targets.
The ministry said its forces had also taken full control of the Ilyich Steel Plant in the besieged port city of Mariupol, which has been encircled by Russian troops for weeks.
Powerful explosions were heard in Kyiv on Friday which appeared to be among the most significant there since Russian troops pulled back from the area earlier this month in preparation for battles in the south and east.
The explosions were reported to have been heard after the Russian defense ministry announced that the Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, had sunk while being towed after being badly damaged.
Ukraine claimed the Moskva’s damage was the result of one of its missile strikes. Russia’s defense ministry spoke only of a fire breaking out and of exploding ammunition.
The defense ministry said in its statement that its overnight missile strikes on Kyiv had struck the “Vizar” factory on the edge of the Ukrainian capital which it said made and repaired missiles, including anti-ship missiles.
It pledged more strikes on Kyiv.
“The number and scale of missile strikes on targets in Kyiv will increase in response to any terrorist attacks or acts of sabotage on Russian territory committed by the Kyiv nationalist regime,” the ministry said in a statement.
It said its forces had shot down a Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter which it said had attacked the village of Klimovo in Bryansk region on April 14 and had also shot down a Ukrainian Sukhoi-27 jet.
A group of up to 30 Polish mercenaries had also been eliminated, it said.
Poland Bans Russian Coal
The office of Polish President Andrzej Duda said on Friday that he signed a bill into law that allows the assets of business entities that support Russia to be frozen. The document also provides for a ban on imports of Russian coal.
“The law on special measures” was adopted to protect national security, the document said.
It provides for a freezing of funds and other assets of individuals and legal entities, which will be included in a special list maintained by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration. The ministry will update the list on its own or at the request of special services and other government bodies.
NATO Warships Arrive in Baltic Sea
A group of NATO warships belonging to the Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1) and Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) have started arriving in the Baltic Sea to partake in joint exercises with allied and partnered nations, with some having already docked in a port in Tallinn, Estonia, according to a NATO press release published on Thursday.
The bloc announced the move on Monday, saying “NATO regularly deploys maritime forces in the Baltic Sea in order to maintain a credible and capable defensive capability in accordance with treaty obligations.”
The SNMG1 consists of flagships from the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, and the United Kingdom, while the SNMCMG1 is composed of Norwegian, Belgian, German, Estonian, British, and Dutch mine layers and minesweepers.
Russia Promises to Ramp Up Missile Attacks
Russia’s Defense Ministry on Friday promised to ramp up “the scale of missile attacks” on Kyiv in response to Ukraine’s “diversions on the Russian territory.”
The statement comes a day after Russian authorities accused Ukrainian forces of launching airstrikes on residential buildings in one of the country’s regions on the border with Ukraine, in which seven people sustained injuries.
The Defense Ministry said that the Russian forces in Ukraine’s Chernihiv region shot down a Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter that was allegedly involved in the attack on the Bryansk region.
Authorities in another border region, Belgorod, also reported Ukrainian shelling on Thursday.
We Should Be Proud of Surviving 50 Days of War, Zelenskyy Tells Ukrainians
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Ukrainians on Thursday they should be proud of having survived 50 days under Russian attack when the Russians “gave us a maximum of five.”
In his late-night video address, Zelenskyy called it “an achievement of millions of Ukrainians, of everyone who on Feb. 24 made the most important decision of their life—to fight.”
Zelenskyy gave an extensive and almost poetic listing of the many ways in which Ukrainians have helped to fend off the Russian troops, including “those who showed that Russian warships can sail away, even if it’s to the bottom” of the sea. It was his only reference to the Russian missile cruiser Moskva, which sank while being towed to port.
Canada Sends Soldiers To Poland To Help Ukrainian Refugees
Canada is sending soldiers to Poland to help with the care, coordination, and resettlement of Ukrainian refugees in Poland, including some who will come to Canada.
More than 2.6 million Ukrainians have fled into Poland since the first Russian troops crossed into Ukraine on Feb. 24 and over 2 million more have fled into other surrounding countries.
Defense Minister Anita Anand announced the deployment of up to 150 troops Thursday, claiming the majority of the deployed troops will head to reception centers across Poland to help care for and register Ukrainian refugees.
Another group is being sent to help coordinate international aid efforts.
Canada has deployed hundreds of additional troops to eastern Europe since Russia’s invasion as the NATO military alliance seeks to both support Ukraine and prevent the conflict from expanding into a broader war.
Moscow Says S-400 Takes Down Ukrainian Border Attack Chopper
A Ukrainian military helicopter that conducted an attack on a Russian village on Thursday was hit with an S-400 long-range missile as it was returning to base, the Russian Defense Ministry has claimed.
The Soviet-designed Mil Mi-8 helicopter was taken down near the town of Gorodnya in Ukraine’s Chernigov Region, the ministry said at a morning press briefing on Friday. The area is located around 30km from the Russian border.
The helicopter, according to the ministry, was used in the April 14 attack on the village of Klimovo in Russia’s Bryansk Region on the other side of the border, leaving eight residents injured. Russia said two Ukrainian helicopters fired at least six missiles at the village after approaching at low altitude.
US Cannot ‘Take Lightly’ Threat Russia Could Use Nuclear Weapons: CIA Chief
The threat of Russia potentially using tactical or low-yield nuclear weapons in Ukraine cannot be taken lightly, but the CIA has not seen a lot of practical evidence reinforcing that concern, CIA Director William Burns said on Thursday.
Burns’ most extensive public comments since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 underscored concerns that the biggest attack against a European state since 1945 risks escalating to the use of nuclear weapons.
Earlier on Thursday, Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, warned NATO that Moscow would deploy nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave in the heart of Europe, if Sweden and Finland joined the Atlantic alliance.
Burns spoke at Georgia Tech of the “potential desperation” and setbacks dealt to Putin, whose forces have suffered heavy losses.
For those reasons, “none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons,” Burns said.
That said, despite “rhetorical posturing” by the Kremlin about putting the world’s largest nuclear arsenal on high alert, “We haven’t seen a lot of practical evidence of the kind of deployments or military dispositions that would reinforce that concern.”
Tactical and low-yield nuclear weapons refer to those designed for use on the battlefield, of which some experts estimate Russia has about 2,000 that can be delivered by air, naval, and ground forces.
NATO Reveals New European Nuclear Plans
NATO planners are updating the U.S. “nuclear sharing” program to account for most European allies planning to buy F-35 joint strike fighter jets, the military bloc’s director of nuclear policy said this week. Lockheed Martin’s fifth-generation fighter has been embraced by multiple U.S. allies, including most recently Germany, despite the Pentagon’s own misgivings about the program.
“We’re moving fast and furiously towards F-35 modernization and incorporating those into our planning and into our exercising and things like that as those capabilities come online,” Jessica Cox, director of the NATO nuclear policy directorate in Brussels, said on Wednesday, adding that “By the end of the decade, most if not all of our allies will have transitioned” to the F-35.
Cox spoke during an online discussion hosted by the Advanced Nuclear Weapons Alliance Deterrence Center (ANWA DC), a U.S. think tank, according to Defense News.
Japan to Attend G20 Meet, No Comment on Russia’s Participation: Finance Minister
Japan is preparing to attend a gathering of financial leaders from the Group of 20 economic powers next week, its finance minister said on Friday, as Western nations sought the expulsion of Russia from the forum and said they would skip sessions where Moscow is represented.
Shunichi Suzuki said Japan “is not in the position to respond to each country’s participation” when asked about Russia‘s plans to join the forum online, which G20 chair Indonesia announced on Thursday.
Japanese officials are keen to have their minister go to Washington next week for the G20 meeting on April 20 on the sidelines of IMF/World Bank spring gatherings. Suzuki was not able to attend the previous meeting of the group in February.
“The G20 meeting is a very important conference to discuss various issues of the global economy, including rising food and energy prices due to Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine,” Suzuki told a news conference.
Last week, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the United States will boycott some G20 meetings if Russian officials show up. German Finance Minister Christian Lindner has called for the rejection of any form of cooperation with Russia at the G20.
Meanwhile, Japan “will take appropriate steps” in close cooperation with G7 allies and Indonesia, based on a March G7 leaders’ statement that said international platforms should not continue relations with Russia in a business as usual manner, Suzuki added.
Russian Legislator and 2 Aides Criminally Charged in US
A Russian legislator and two aides were charged with conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions as they pushed a covert Russian propaganda campaign in the United States to win support for moves against Ukraine and other countries, a Justice Department indictment unsealed Thursday said.
Three conspiracy charges were brought in an indictment in Manhattan federal court against the legislator, Aleksandr Babakov, 59, and two of his staff members—Aleksandr Nikolayevich Vorobev, 52, and Mikhail Alekseyevich Plisyuk, 58.
All three men named are based in Russia and remain at large, authorities said. Babakov currently serves as deputy chairman of the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian legislature, federal authorities said in a release.
U.S. attorney Damian Williams said Babakov’s actions show Russia’s “illegitimate actions against Ukraine extend beyond the battlefield, as political influencers under Russia’s control allegedly plotted to steer geopolitical change in Russia’s favor through surreptitious and illegal means in the U.S. and elsewhere in the West.”
Damaged Russian Warship Sinks After Explosion
Russia’s lead warship in the Black Sea sank on Thursday, Russia’s defense ministry announced, after what Ukraine said was a missile strike and Russia described as an explosion of ammunition on board.
The loss of the Moskva, the flagship in Russia’s Black Sea fleet, occurred as it was being towed to port in stormy weather, Russian news agencies quoted the defense ministry as saying.
Russia’s defense ministry said earlier that over 500 crew aboard the Soviet-era missile cruiser were evacuated after ammunition exploded. It did not acknowledge an attack and said the incident was under investigation.
Ukraine said it hit the warship with a Ukrainian-made Neptune anti-ship missile.
The United States was not able to confirm Ukraine’s claims of striking the warship, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Thursday. Still, he called it “a big blow to Russia.”
France to Move French Embassy in Ukraine Back to Kyiv
France will “very soon” move back its embassy in Ukraine to the capital Kyiv from the western city of Lviv, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in a phone call.
The French embassy was moved to Lviv in early March as conditions worsened on the ground after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, the ministry statement said.
Alan Cheung, Lorenz Duchamps, The Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report.